EX-Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to Coventry yesterday – and warned car and manufacturing jobs in the city, West Midlands, and the UK are under threat from a ‘bank cheque’ for a Theresa May ‘Brexit’.
In a speech at Coventry University in the home of Jaguar Land Rover, the ex-Labour PM urged voters to dismiss any notion that this was a “single issue” general election – with Mrs May calling for a “strengthened hand” in Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
And he said there should be no ‘blank cheque’ for the Tory prime minister to negotiate the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU without spelling out to voters what her terms were – not least with regard to the car industry and manufacturing.
Talking at the university’s engineering and computer building, Mr Brown, who suffered Labour’s second heaviest post-War general election defeat in 2010, said: “Mrs May has called an election on a single issue. The last time a Prime Minister did so on a single issue was Edward Heath in 1974 who asked: ‘Who governs the country?’ The answer came back, ‘Not Edward Heath.’
“Mrs May says she want this single issue election to strengthen her hand with Europe. But she’s not telling us what her hand is. It is to be at the cost of industry and jobs if she doesn’t tell us.
“She wants us to write her a blank cheque.. carte blanche to do what she wants.. when the jobs of car workers, the future of manufacturing and the prosperity of young people are central in this election.”
He said 45,000 people were employed by Jaguar Land Rover alone in the West Midlands, 170,000 by the UK car industry, and 2.2 million in manufacturing.
“They need assurances before this election about what is to happen to manufacturing in those negotiations with Euorpe,” added Mr Brown.
He said the car industry depended on the European Union, adding: “It’s in the interests of Britain to negotiate free trade with the European Union.”
His three-point agenda called for..
1. Tariff-free access to the European Union. He said tariffs/taxes of 10 per cent on imports to EU countries would add £2-3,000 to the costs of selling a car to Europe, with half of cars made in Britain sold to mainland Europe.
2. Free movement for parts and components to move back and forth from Europe.
3. Free movement of cars and parts to non-EU countries.
He went on to talk about the need for the June 8 election to also be about school budget cuts; the NHS and rising waiting lists; rising child poverty; the need for foodbanks; and rising wealth inequality – even though the gap between the very richest and poor had also risen in the Blair/Brown New Labour years on certain measures between 1997 and 2010.